Four Roses Yellow Label
Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Kirin Brewery Company
Distillery: Four Roses
Mashbill: Blend of 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley and 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Light Amber
MSRP: $20 (2017)
Four Roses uses 2 different mash bills and 5 different yeast strains to create 10 unique bourbon recipes. All 10 of the recipes are typically blended together to create Yellow, however there are times when not all 10 recipes are used in each batch. The Q yeast strain is described as having and essence of floral aromas, of which there are 2 Q recipes, OESQ and OBSQ (1 for each mash bill), which are considered “flavoring recipes.” These recipes make up a small portion of Four Roses’ overall production and consequently a small portion of the Yellow blend, typically ranging from 1.5 - 3.5%. When supplies are short and the desired flavor profile has already been achieved, Four Roses may forego one or both of these additional flavoring recipes in the blend. As a result the Yellow blend will include 8 - 10 of the Four Roses recipes depending on the batch.
The Yellow batch size ranges from 200 - 400 barrels. The average age of the bourbons by batch is about 5 ½ years, with the barrels typically ranging from as young as 4 years to as old as 12 years. Four Roses uses single story rickhouses to age their bourbon in barrels that have undergone a 45 second burn (resulting in a char level that falls between #3 and #4).
A floral undertone provides the base for the aromas. Hints of apple and pear lay atop the delicate floral base. A bit of ethanol is present but it doesn’t overtake the other scents.
On the palate this bourbon is soft and lightweight, though it has a nice mouthfeel. Flavors are subtle and well integrated with one another. As a result, it can be described as simply having a fruity, floral essence. The flavors are so well balanced and delicate, it’s nearly impossible to zero in on any one specifically.
Crisp with the fruit and floral characteristics dissipating quickly. A light spice takes their place, and though it’s very soft it lingers pleasantly for some time.
While the flavor profile of Yellow could be considered well balanced and in a sense flawless, it also lacks any characteristics that would make it stand out. Combined with it’s low proof, Yellow is very easy to sip and integrates well into cocktails without overtaking the other ingredients. Based on Yellow’s position in Four Roses’ standard lineup along with its complicated creation process, it’s safe to assume this is by design with the final product being precisely what the company wants it to be.
The creation process for Yellow is not only unique in the industry, but rather intriguing when you consider it relative to the final product. Seeing as how 8 to 10 of the Four Roses’ unique recipes are blended together to make each Yellow batch, you might expect an onslaught of different flavors. Instead the opposite is true. Of course the various recipes used ultimately provide the base of flavors for the bourbon. However, the use of multiple recipes also serves to mute the unwanted characteristics and imperfections that each individual recipe or barrel might bring to the blend, allowing for meticulous control and consistency from batch to batch.
$20 a bottle for Four Roses Yellow is more than fair as long as expectations are kept in check. Unlike some of the comparably priced Bottled in Bond (BiB) bourbons we’ve reviewed, Yellow is 20 proof points lower and generally has a more balanced, yet less exciting flavor profile by comparison, making it more ideal for mixing. Four Roses’ own Small Batch, the next bottle in their standard portfolio which retails for approximately $10 more than Yellow, is bottled at a higher proof and provides a more interesting flavor profile for those looking to sip neat. Yellow is ideal for anyone who enjoys a more delicate sip or simply wants a mixer that promises not to overpower the drink. While it won’t offend anyone, it probably won’t excite anyone either.
Four Roses Yellow is a quality budget-friendly bourbon that’s easy to like and ideal for cocktails, but because of it’s low proof and subtle flavor profile, it’s not exciting enough to really love.
Four Roses seems to succeed in everything they do and maintains careful control over their unique process, which is arguably the envy of the industry. Being their budget-friendly entry level bourbon, Yellow is high in quality, though its low proof and lack of unique flavor characteristics make it more ideal as a mixer than a sipper. I would recommend anyone who has not tried it yet or who has not had it in a while seek out a bottle of Yellow, if for no other reason than to experience the end product of this unique curation process and as something to have on hand as a versatile cocktail base. Furthermore, if any of the good folks at Four Roses happen to be listening, I would be very interested to experience what a barrel proof version of Yellow tastes like.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of The Baddish Group. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.
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